By Adelle Whitefoot
A rural Two Harbors man who allegedly led police on a four-mile chase through the city after striking a fire truck and squad car appeared in court Tuesday.
Jeffrey Carl Joseph Swartout, 22, is charged with felony fleeing a peace officer in a motor vehicle, two counts of third-degree driving while impaired and one count of fourth-degree driving while impaired. If convicted of the most serious charge, Swartout could face up to three years in jail and a $5,000 fine.
According to the criminal complaint:At about 11:11 p.m. on Aug. 27, personnel from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and Rescue Squad, along with the Two Harbors Fire Department, Two Harbors Police Department and Lake County Ambulance, were dispatched to a one-vehicle crash on County Highway 2, across from Two Harbors High School.
At about 11:42 p.m., a southbound 2016 Chevrolet sedan approached the crash scene traveling at about 30 to 40 mph and did not appear to slow down. The vehicle, which authorities say was driven by Swartout, almost struck a firefighter holding a stop and slow sign, then proceeded to strike a THFD truck and sideswipe a sheriff’s deputy’s squad car while continuing through the scene of the earlier crash. The suspect driver then allegedly revved up the vehicle’s engine and drove away from the scene.
The vehicle was pursued by two Two Harbors police officers as it turned west onto County Road 26 and then south onto Paul Antonich Drive and into a residential area. According to the complaint, officers reached speeds of 70 mph as the they approached Eighth Street, at which time a state trooper joined the pursuit at the request of the officers.
After the vehicle turned west on Seventh Avenue (Highway 61), the trooper attempted a PIT (precision immobilization technique) maneuver at County Road 26 — the turnoff to Shopko and Super One — in an effort to stop the vehicle, but failed. The vehicle spun 360 degrees, but continued west, driving around the trooper’s squad car. The vehicle then turned right onto 15th Street, accelerating to an estimated 60 mph. The trooper attempted a second PIT maneuver at the intersection of Battaglia Boulevard, forcing the vehicle off the road and onto the grass, at which time the three officers boxed in the car. The suspect — identified as Swartout — then reversed his vehicle into the front of a Two Harbors squad car.
When officers approached the vehicle, the complaint states, they immediately detected a strong odor of alcohol coming from within the vehicle. Swartout was observed to have bloodshot, watery eyes and his voice was slurred. According to the complaint, after being pulled from the vehicle and handcuffed, Swartout stated that he panicked when he saw the emergency vehicles on Highway 2 and didn’t know what to do. He also stated that he was drinking “Fireball.”
A search of the vehicle found nine empty Fireball Whiskey bottles, one empty Redd’s Apple Ale container and one Budweiser can. Authorities said a breath test taken by Swartout at 12:47 a.m. resulted in a 0.22 blood alcohol content, 0.14 over the legal limit.
Authorities said Swartout ran 10 stop signs during the four-mile pursuit.
Swartout is currently out on a conditional release and is scheduled to be in court again on Oct. 18.